I recently stumbled upon an article on paper prototyping – an economic prototyping technique that not only saves money but also a lot of time which was spent in writing code and developing data structures.

Paper prototyping basically uses paper-based designs for testing out layouts. Sketches are drawn on paper – that paper may or may not be properly cut to indicate shape, size etc. After this process is done for all screens and menus and for a few results/output pages, the actual exercise starts – the developer(s) behave(s) as the platform for which the design is made. A user – anyone can be a user – is asked to give inputs by pressing or dragging etc. (simulating clicks for computers or prods/grabs/pinches/drags for mobiles, tablets etc.) on the paper designs and the developer introduces or removes the appropriate screens to simulate the design and structure of the application created.

This is a valuable tool for small companies (especially startups) where money saved is money earned. Besides, a lot of time can also be saved using this approach as you get all the corrections in your design before you write a single line of code.

It is recommended to have a coder around when all the corrections are being suggested because some of the changes might have an issue with implementation. They might even hamper the performance of the application and hence not incorporated in the first place.

This prototyping technique can be applied to GUIs, webpages, mobile and tablet apps and perhaps any design application. But, it has its own disadvantages – don’t go for it if all you want to test is the speed of the design. The developer only simulates the behavior – not the speed. Also, particularly for web-pages, it does not highlight the effect of scrolling. Maximum users don’t like to scroll to see the matter they are interested in.

Check out the following video to see the power of this technique.

Also, please visit the following pages for more on paper prototyping.

1) Paper Prototyping – a companion site to a book by Carolyn Snyder

2) How to implement it

3) A few tips

4) The wiki – it always will provide more info 🙂

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